project from August 2017 to June 2018
Building systems — Orbital NYC

I started a few small experiments around my work space at Orbital NYC. Here are two that won some mild fame.

Space booking

I built a system to track utilization of bookable rooms on the three floors at Orbital: kind of a baby BIM. It combined a representation of the floor plan (gathered from old Kickstarter-era construction documents) with calendar data from the Googs.

First, I put together a “room tool” to visualize rooms availability, and list upcoming events. But we never settled on a place to set up a display, so this feature languished in obscurity.

Since we ultimately must meet people where they are, I made a Slack command to book rooms or view room availability. This was much more successful, due to Slack’s current popularity combined with the relative clunkiness of booking rooms in the murky depths of Google Calendar.

Unfortunately, Google’s APIs “evolved” to the point where it no longer notified our system of all its calendar updates, so the system became out of sync and unreliable. Rather than maintain up yet-another system integration, I let this one go.

Snack Machine

Because I love food and snacks (when they come in great variety, anyway), I organized a small fund to stock a shelf with a few small snacks.

Because I enjoy life’s complexities, the fund was driven by a $10 monthly subscription and included a suggestion/voting/review process, as well as a listing of available snacks, also available via… yup, a Slack command. This was powered by a rudimentary inventory and accounting system that helped allocate each week’s funds toward the most in-demand items.

The Snack Machine started off as a small wooden tray in a cubby shelf, but as 15 people signed on, it grew into a dedicated 3-tier wire shelf with dedicated serving containers and dishware.

I still get “RIP Snack Machine” comments from folks at Orbital.

Chris Willard